Theatre in Toronto

10 under the radar live theatre venues in Toronto

Live theatre venues in Toronto are sprouting up in unexpected nooks and crannies. With some of the city's most innovative projects being staged in converted storefronts, basements, and historic houses.

As the city's theatre scene grows with the development of spaces like The Theatre Centre, and festivals like SummerWork's Progress hitting the scene, more independent companies are establishing roots in Toronto. Many of these companies are connecting with audiences in small-unexpected neighbourhood spaces.

Here are my picks for the top under-the-radar live theatre venues in Toronto.

Storefront Theatre - 955 Bloor St. W.
This former drugstore-turned-performance space in Bloorcourt Village, is home to the Red One Theatre Collective. The space has become a hub for original programming including world premieres, live game shows, one-act festivals, even a roller disco. Look out for their innovative programs like Sing For Your Supper a cold reading series of new Canadian works.

Videofag - 187 Augusta Ave.
Videofag is a converted barbershop in Kensington Market that specializes in out-of-the-box cinema and live-art productions. Expect unconventional performances like drag queen, Pearle Harbour's quirky variety shows featuring comedians, burlesque dancers and more.

Sidemart Theatrical Grocery - 1362 Queen St. E.
This award-winning indie theatre company run by a group of Montreal transplants is housed in a former H&R Block on Queen Street East near Greenwood in Leslieville. The boutique storefront has been used as an intimate stage putting audiences smack in the centre of the action. No need for glasses, from these seats, you can almost feel the actors' breath on your face.

Aki Studio Theatre - 250-585 Dundas St. E.
Aki Studio Theatre is the home of the Native Earth Performance Centre, Canada's oldest professional Indigenous theatre company. The 120-seat black box theatre is part of the Daniels Spectrum arts and cultural centre in Regent Park. This is the place to see some of the best Indigenous, multicultural, and independent theatre in town including fu-Gen, Cahoots, and Obsidian.

The Coal Mine Theatre - 798 Danforth Ave.
The Coal Mine is the Danforth's newest storefront theatre venue located below a Magic Oven just east of Pape. With only 65 seats in the round, the basement space is ideal for small productions that break the divide between the audience and stage. This past season the space was home to Bob Kills Theatre's acclaimed indie show The Motherf**ker With the Hat, a favourite for a Dora Award.

The Theatre Machine - 376 Dufferin St.
The Theatre Machine is Parkdale's premier underground performance venue and home of The Unit 102 Actors Company and Sterling Studio Theatre. Currently the theatre is staging a limited run of Riel Paley's dark comedy Antiman. The show is about the life of Sky Matthew Riel Paley who was uprooted from Canada to the Caribbean as a baby.

Wynchwood Barns - 601 Christie St.
This historic TTC streetcar repair barns, in Toronto's St. Clair and Christie neighbourhood has been transformed into the Artscape Wychwood Barns. The 60,000 sq. ft. community centre brings together various arts and community organizations under one roof. Storytelling Toronto and Theatre Direct Canada both operate out of this space, offering family friendly, community-minded shows.

Aluna Theatre - 1 Wiltshire Ave. Unit 124
Aluna's Studio is a quaint 750 sq. foot studio in Carleton Village near Dupont and Lansdowne Ave. The company has a mission to address the misrepresentation and under-representation of cultural diversity on Canadian stages. Expect to see translated works and pieces based on international partnerships at this venue.

Fraser Studios - 76 Stafford St. Unit 101
Fraser Studios, now in the Trinity Bellwoods area, includes a numbers of small studio rooms, as well as a 50-person theatre showcasing indie theatre and screenings. Look for the Fraser Studios 2015 Indie theatre season kickoff party on Jan. 27 featuring Spiel Players, Rarely Pure, Fraser Players, and Cue6.

Red Sandcastle Theatre - 922 Queen St. E.
Red Sandcastle Theatre, in the heart of Leslieville, is a far cry from your traditional theatre. This converted vintage-looking storefront is home to community oriented theatre projects and family-friendly summer camps.

What did I miss? Add your suggestions for the top under-the-radar live theater venues in Toronto in the comments.

Follow Sima Sahar Zerehi on Twitter @SimaSaharZerehi.

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